Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It seems selfish to talk about such a mundane breaking apart in a world where real wreckage lies scattered everywhere. Instead, I try to carry the sadness around quietly, so as not to take up too much air with it, to leave space for the far more significant sadnesses of others. How do we appropriately mourn the passage of time when it’s passing beautifully, safely, but not for everyone? And how do we honor milestones that happen while we aren’t looking? The first toddling steps, taken at home with the sitter while we’re at work, or the first baby tooth, lost at preschool. The last time we saw someone, not knowing it was the last. All I know to do is acknowledge the fortune of having milestones to celebrate at all. I can celebrate people whose accomplishments mark time in my own life. I can accept that firsts and lasts are both glorious and breathtakingly sad, especially when they sneak up on us. I can watch and listen for losses I can do something about, and then I can stand by someone’s side, make a phone call, give my time, cast a vote—anything I can do, as often as possible—to try to make sure fewer parents suffer the unthinkable, that more people will bear only the most ordinary losses. And I can try to contain my emotions when they hit me like a wave in public, the way they did that late-summer afternoon while shopping for peaches. If you happen to catch me moping while gazing upon my firstborn’s favorite food, know that I’m pulling myself together. Really, I am. I’ve just slipped for a second into my own tiny, self-indulgent grief. And if you, too, are thinking, I thought I had more time, for any reason—a loss large or small or so eclipsed by refracted rays of joy that you’re ashamed to call it a loss at all—come stand quietly by the fruit with me. We don’t even have to talk, unless… well, would you mind telling me to turn my oven off? It’s so easy to miss the moment when things begin to burn.

— Mary Laura PhilpottBomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (Atria Books, April 12, 2022)


Notes:

Walking. With Small Details.

Wednesday morning. 5:56 a.m. Temp, mid-70’s. Muggy.

484 consecutive days. Like in a Row. Morning walk at Daybreak @ Cove Island Park.

Now, do you see that ripple in the water, actually a number of ripples, in the bottom quarter of the photo? They’re the equivalent of Rainbow Smelt in Lake Superior. (I think.) 15 years living here, I’ve never noticed these schools of fish. And now, they’re seemingly everywhere. Water rippling, spinning, bubbling. My eyes darting left and right in search of other schools.

I can’t explain it.

They’ve become important.

Anuk Arudpragasam, from A Passage North: “Suddenly the small details that are glossed over in your usual accounting of life took on an almost cosmic significance, as though your fate could be determined by whether or not you remembered to draw water before it became dark, by whether you hurried to catch the bus or decided to take your time, by whether or not you said yes or no to any of the countless trivial decisions that come only in retrospect, once the event has occurred and nothing can be changed, to take on greater significance.”

Thursday Morning.  I’m between calls. Susan shouts out asking for me to come down stairs. Hurry!

I come barreling down the stairs.

(Sciatica and all, this body can still move when it needs to.)

She’s sobbing. Good God. What happened? [Read more…]

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

I beg your pardon, I hear my disease answer in reply to my many charges leveled against it—of trespass, hijack, squatting, invasion, vandalism, anxiety, psychosis, psoriasis (of the mind), catatonia (of the spirit), a Gordian knot (of my reason), poisoning, pollution, warping—I did not grow in you uninvited by the way you lived and the life that you were given to begin with. I started in you with time and from time. I opened my eyes thanks to you finding the combination to unlock my presence in you by the way you lived your life. I had no intention to riot against you, my host, upon whom I depended for sustenance and a quiet life—which is all I ever wanted. I did not intend to finish you and me in the process. As long as you lived on, so would I. As long as you left me undisturbed, I would keep quiet and dormant in you until the end of your days.

You see me as spikes, barbed wire, and broken bottles, all cutting edges in you, and you forget that you set me going, turned me on and cut me loose in your body. I did not expect it. All your talk, reading, and tree-hugging company, and demonstrations for good, signaled to me that I would not have a hectic life that charged to a rapid end for my host and for me, but that I would be in a quiet place, unseen and ignored and quite content to amble to an octogenarian’s crawl and walker decked with tennis balls for a snail’s mobility, staggering brakes and watch-paint-dry stoppage. I could see it when you meditated or did your yoga or ran or lifted weights or ate greens, lots of them, with poker-faced enjoyment. I stopped thinking of a day when I would be free to run to my end and in the process, bring about yours preternaturally early. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

We hug across the gearbox console. I tell her I love her very much and she tells me she loves me too. I drive around the block of her school for her red face to clear and for her to stop hiccupping with upset. I beg her to forget everything bad that sprang out of my mouth. That I am a fool at the mercy of my diagnosis. That I lack the necessary control to be a proper father to her. She says she wants me to be her dad, none other, and that she loves me and she will be fine in a minute or two. She offers me my soaked handkerchief. I tell her to keep it in case she needs it again. She says that she is fine. We have never been closer and with such intensity—thanks to my cancer. We are late for the start of her school day. I tell her if she feels bad just call me or text and I will leave work and pick up her in under ten minutes. She says she will be fine, really. That I shouldn’t worry. That she feels better. She asks me how I am doing. I tell her I feel better too. We part with a brief lock of eyes and hurried mutual I-love-yous. Thank you, cancer. I called you a f*cker for turning up uninvited and ruining what was supposed to be the party of my life. Now I thank you. You turn up the intensity in my routine domesticity.

Touching her was like taking a drug.

From the moment Ally was born, pushed out of Sam’s body (nothing could be more common than motherhood and yet nothing about it could ever be banal), Ally became Sam’s sun, Sam’s primary concern. She felt a directedness and a purpose and a meaning she had never experienced before. Another way of putting it: it was the least fake feeling she had ever had, the most earnest. Did all mothers feel this way? Did fathers feel this way? No, yes, doesn’t matter. On some level, it was Ally and then there was every other human on the earth. At first it was physical. The need to hold and feed and comfort. That was the best part of being a mother, answering that need. It was so simple and complete. Sure, there were times Sam longed for sleep, times she felt positively enslaved, but all it took was the head on her chest, the hand clutching at her, Sam’s own hand supporting the plump, perfect back. Touching her was like taking a drug. The back, the foot, the leg, the little arm; the lips, the ears, the toes, the perfect tiny nose. The thighs, the dimpled knees, the lines of fat at the wrists, the tapered, padded fingers with the tiny oval of a nail. Look at her. The eyes, well, they were the same always, the same today. Large, heavy lidded, dark brown, wide-set, extravagantly lashed. What a beauty she was and is. Even at the height of her adolescent awkwardness, Sam had found her profoundly, significantly beautiful. Was it “true”? Did others see her the way Sam did? It didn’t matter. What mattered was that Sam had felt this abiding love for sixteen years, and it was the best thing she had ever felt or would ever feel.

— Dana Spiotta, Wayward: A Novel (Knopf, July 6, 2021)


Notes:

Now Raise Your Hand and Caim…


By Histoire d’Elle (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Survivor

I know I am becoming someone different. I just don’t know what that difference will be yet.

— Joelle Wright-Terry, 47, a hospice chaplain from Clinton Township, Mich., is a Covid survivor. She lost her husband to the virus last April. From “Emerging From the Coronavirus” in The New York Times, April 5, 2021


Notes:

And she said Yes!


Our Rachel, with her fiancé Andrew who proposed last night.

Merry Christmas

The picture was taken last night. Part of a family tradition that Grandma started years and years ago —  Grandma sends her gifts which they open on Christmas Eve. It’s always pajamas. The ritual never grows old, and has travelled with us as we moved from city to city, and from house to house, chasing a Life.

It’s 5 a.m. It’s silent now, but for the high winds howling outside my window. The moment reminds me of their younger days, when we lived in much smaller quarters.

We call out good night to each other down the hall. How beautiful, the way that children sleep so deeply and peacefully that their parents’ voices do not wake them.” (Elizabeth Alexander, “The Light of the World: A Memoir.”)

I sit, writing this post. It’s quiet but for my breathing. A tear slides down my cheek.

Martin Amis said that “Time has come to feel like a runaway train, flashing through station after station.”  Melancholy sweeps over me —  I wonder how many more Christmas moments are left before they move on with their lives.

Maybe one more. Please, give us at least one more…

Merry Christmas.

Thanksgiving Morning

Quiet has many moods. When our sons are home, their energy is palpable. Even when they’re upstairs sleeping I can sense them, can feel the house filling with their presence, expanding like a sail billowed with air. I love the dawn stillness of a house full of sleepers, love knowing that within these walls our entire family is contained and safe, reunited, our stable four-sided shape resurrected.

~ Katrina Kenison, Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment 


Photo: DK, home, Thanksgiving Day, Nov 26, 2020. 55° & Rain.

Truth

Have you ever held a three year old by the hand on the way home from preschool?…

You’re never more important than you are then.

— Fredrik Backman, “Anxious People: A Novel” (Atria Books, September 8, 2020)


Eric Kanigan @ 4 years old. He used to clutch on to his Momma’s hand, tears welling up, before he released her on his way into pre-school. 26 years old now. Still clutching on to his Momma. 🙂

WFH? Give me another 4 weeks.

Week 2, Work-From-Home, which today in work parlance is WFH.

No early commutes in, or exhausting rides home. No hiding your iPhone to play Words-With-Friends during slow meetings. Had enough? Just turn on ‘Do Not Disturb’, close your eyes, lean back in your chair, and drift away for a few moments.  Or turn to your Kindle app and read a few pages from Yiyun Li’s Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. “Can one live without what one cannot have,” she asks. I pause at this, and Wonder. Can I?

And WFH here, involves Father and his 26-year Son.

Both suffer from immune deficiency disorders of differing severity levels. Both hunkered down to stay out of the path of COVID-19.

Father in his make-shift office. Anchored to his chair, desktop computer, internet phone, headset and a notepad to scribble. Many days, not more than 1300 steps all day, most to run down to the Fridge. Potato Chips. A fix (or two) of Talenti Gelato. A handful of pistachios. Then, a short run back upstairs to calls. Up 6 lbs since WFH has commenced, and unfazed. Could be worse.

Son prefers to work from his bed. Two laptops running, iPhone on his bed, playstation cued up, ear buds to take his calls. He’s sipping from a tall glass of water. No junk food here. He’s lean, fit, a full head of hair and sits in his shorts and tee-shirt, sock-less, while the morning sun beams in. When did I get so old?

I sit next to him on his bed. Nudge him over. “Come on, give me a little room.” He grunts, and moves over. I lean into him while we check messages on our iPhones.  Illya Kaminsky, that word magician, describes the moments. “…but something silent in us strengthens

And then we have lunch.

And then we sit and have dinner, and we argue over the madness in the 6pm White House Briefings.

And the next day, we repeat.

COVID-19? Give me another 4 weeks. I’m going to remember this.


Art: Kendall Kessler, Clyde and Alan

Sunday Morning

Yesterday, my late Brother’s Memorial in Canada with family and friends, which followed his Phoenix “Celebration of Life” in January.

I couldn’t go.

I couldn’t get myself to watch the service on Zoom.

I couldn’t pull myself together to read the few words I had written about my younger brother, sending an email to a Cousin, letting her carry the weight.

Memorials rip open still raw grief. Suffering is best done in silence, alone. For Some.

As I was preparing my thoughts on my Brother, I found him fading.

I can’t make out his face, but can see the dark, sunken hollows of his eyes.

I can’t recall his last words, but can recall his raspy voice, his vocal cords damaged from tubes winding down his throat.

I can’t make out his body, a silhouette now, fading, withered from being bedridden for months – but can feel his hands, soft, his grip, firm, from that last handshake.

I rub my index finger and thumb together, and I’m drawn back…

He steps up to the tee box. He’s standing calmly over the ball. Click. He re-grips the club once, and then again, softly. Click. His body now still, his hands quiet.  Click. He takes the club back, in a slow, smooth arc. Click. He pauses at the top.  Click. He pivots his legs and then his hips in a full, graceful follow through. Click. The ball explodes off the tee.  Click. The Titleist, a white speck, streaks the ever so blue, sky.  Click. The ball lands softly in the center of the fairway 275 yards from the T-box. Click. Art, Bro. Fine Art.

But all of this is fading, I’m losing him, as Wallace Stevens loses those that he has loved:

The figures of the past go cloaked.
They walk in mist and rain and snow
And go, go slowly, but they go.

 


Prior background posts on Lorne. Photo: Mist by Risto Ranta

Sunday Morning. A Minute of Silence.

Tom Hanks as Mr. Fred Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” With an all-star performance by Matthew Rhys.  Movie, Highly Recommended.

Lightly Child, Lightly. (Part II)

5:05 am. Tuesday morning.

Mid-January, 40° F.  40° F, and Australia is burning.

Cabin is quiet, but for the heater humming, knocking down the chill.

Headlights illuminate I-95, dry road. 74 mph. Speed lane.  I pass Truckers on my right, a convoy racing to beat rush hour into Manhattan.  Google Maps updates arrival time in Midtown: 55 minutes.

I re-grip the steering wheel, shift in my seat, adjust the seat belt, uncomfortably snug across my lower belly.

Two nights before. At kitchen table. Fingers untie the bow, then move to the white wrapping paper covering the gift from the Chocolate Chalet.  Hand made chocolates, hand selected by a friend, a colleague, and her children. Milk Chocolate. Raspberry jelly. Cherry. Vanilla Creme. Dark Chocolate. Nut clusters.  I cordon off a Do Not Cross area around the table signalling My Box, My Chocolates, My Zone.

One night before. Monday Night. At kitchen table. With half of the chocolates remaining. I re-established my position, the cordoned off area, and went at it again.

And, there it goes. An entire box of chocolates in a span of a few minutes during back to back evenings, when the world stopped. No, Shoulder PainNo, Work. No, Brother Gone.

I step out of the car, hand the keys to the parking attendant, and walk.  Not to the office, it was early yet. But I walk down Broadway, with the lights beaming down from the buildings in Times Square.  A few morning walkers, and me.  And snippets of Renkl’s essay “After the Fall” drift in and out.

There’s no making peace with it.

There’s no closure.

You wear it under your clothes like a film.

Time claims you: your belly softens, your hair grays, the skin of your grief will loosen, soften, drape your hard bones.

The flowers turn their faces to your face.

Walk out into the springtime, and look: the birds welcome you with a chorus.


Notes:

  • Photo: Mine. Looking down Broadway in Times Square. Tuesday morning, January 14, 2019.
  • Post Inspiration: “This talk of making peace with it. Of feeling it and then finding a way through. Of closure. It’s all nonsense. Here is what no one told me about grief: you inhabit it like a skin. Everywhere you go, you wear grief under your clothes. Everything you see, you see through it, like a film. It is not a hidden hair shirt of suffering. It is only you, the thing you are, the cells that cling to each other in your shape, the muscles that are doing your work in the world. And like your other skin, your other eyes, your other muscles, it too will change in time. It will change so slowly you won’t even see it happening. No matter how you scrutinize it, no matter how you poke at it with a worried finger, you will not see it changing. Time claims you: your belly softens, your hair grays, the skin on the top of your hand goes loose as a grandmother’s, and the skin of your grief, too, will loosen, soften, forgive your sharp edges, drape your hard bones. You are waking into a new shape. You are waking into an old self. What I mean is, time offers your old self a new shape. What I mean is, you are the old, ungrieving you, and you are also the new, ruined you. You are both, and you will always be both. There is nothing to fear. There is nothing at all to fear. Walk out into the springtime, and look: the birds welcome you with a chorus. The flowers turn their faces to your face. The last of last year’s leaves, still damp in the shadows, smell ripe and faintly of fall.” ~ Margaret Renkl, from “After the Fall” in Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss (Milkweed Editions (July 9, 2019)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Bro, if you’re reading this post from above, hit “Like” please.

Lightly child, lightly

I want to record these first sounds of our trip together, maybe because they feel like the last sounds of something. But at the same time I don’t, because I don’t want to interfere with my recording; I don’t want to turn this particular moment of our lives together into a document for a future archive. If I could only, simply, underline certain things with my mind, I would: this light coming in through the kitchen window, flooding the entire cottage in a golden warmth as I prepare the coffeemaker; this soft breeze blowing in through the open door and brushing past my legs as I turn on the stove; that sound of footsteps—feet little, bare, and warm—as the girl gets out of bed and approaches me from behind, announcing: Mama, I woke up!

~ Valeria Luiselli, Lost Children Archive: A Novel 


Notes

  • Photo: Common Muse (sunlight, shadow, light)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Running on Christmas Day. No signal.

At 8 pm last night, I agreed with myself I wouldn’t post, wouldn’t share, wouldn’t clutter up Christmas Day with stuff on this blog.

But no, that wasn’t possible Now.  So we’ll keep it short.

I hadn’t run in weeks, but the pull to get outside, was out-of-body.  You need to get out. Today. Now.

30° F feeling like 26° F.  Sun bright and beaming.  It was high tide at the cove, a flock of Canadian geese, 25 or so, were floating at the base of the break wall, offering me their moment of silence.

He used to follow this blog, comment on certain posts.  I could feel His finger reaching for the “Like” button towards the End when he was no longer up to offering comments.

Forgiveness is not a strong suit.  Actually no suit I wear at all.  I had to stop at mid-point on the run. Toxicity from the anger made another step impossible.

Anger burns for the Health Insurer, who silently collected his premium payments, and then provided notice that coverage wasn’t provided as promised because of an exclusion.  And then to stick the knife deeper, terminated coverage retroactively for a month, causing a scramble by the Care providers demanding payment from Him, shuffling Him to a hospital, and that hospital shuffling him to another for lack of confirmation of Insurance Coverage, and this second one pressing for transfer to permanent skilled care.  “We needed to provide him with a sedative.  He’s really anxious, struggling to breathe.” And you wonder why he’s anxious?  The cauldron boils over.  Anger also burns, for those who took a vow with my Brother, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, only to let him fight alone in sickness. [Read more…]

Yellow Paper (60 sec)


Dubbed “Yellow Paper,” the ad focuses on the homecoming of US military personnel for the holidays. It’s 60-seconds long, with the song “Welcome Home” by Joy Williams playing throughout. In it, a family drives to the airport in a snowstorm, hoping to get there on time. When they get to the airport, they pass out yellow paper and coordinate them into a ribbon shape.] The Yellow Ribbon program is part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. It is the program that allows veterans to continue their education and enrich their lives by providing them tuition-free access to state universities. The yellow ribbon has come to symbolize US troops, Prisoners of War or Missing in Action persons, as well as the mental and physical health of our troops, among other things. The decision made by Toyota to use this symbol shows dedication to the people who protect and serve our country. (Source: Toyota Arlington)

For those with blocked youtube access, try this link.

Antonio Banderas: Proust Questionnaire

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  • What is your idea of perfect happiness? The very short instant right after accomplishing something very challenging.
  • What is your greatest fear? The death of my loved ones.
  • What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My pathological incapacity to say no.
  • What is the trait you most deplore in others? I don’t like fake people, impostors.
  • What do you dislike most about your appearance? I would like to be four inches taller. (He’s 5′ 9″)
  • What is your current state of mind? Excited and calm even if it is a contradiction.
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? The age. I would like to be 30 years old now.
  • If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? I wouldn’t change my family for anything in the world.
  • What do you consider your greatest achievement? I survived Hollywood.
  • If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? A mountain.
  • If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? The ocean.
  • What is your most marked characteristic? People always say my eyes.
  • What is the quality you most like in a man? Integrity.
  • What is the quality you most like in a woman? Compassion.
  • What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty.

~ Antonio Banderas, excerpts from “Antonio Banderas Answers the Proust Questionnaire” Vanity Fair, December 12, 2019


Photo: Actor Antonio Banderas attends the “The Skin I Live In” premiere at the Palais des Festivals during the 64th Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2011 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

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